NHTSA Launches “Put The Phone Away or Pay” Campaign To Combat Distracted Driving

The advertisements target drivers between the ages of 18 and 34, who are most likely to be involved in distracted driving accidents.

Federal traffic safety officials have kicked off a campaign to raise awareness about the risks of distracted driving, emphasizing the potentially deadly outcomes and legal repercussions that could result from texting or talking on cell phones while driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) initiated its “Put the Phone Away or Pay” campaign on April 1, marking the beginning of its annual Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

The campaign is a key component of the agency’s ongoing efforts to combat a surge in auto accidents attributed to distracted driving in recent years. However, following these efforts, officials indicate that the number of car accident fatalities linked to distracted driving dropped by 3.6% last year, compared to the the numbers in 2022, when 3,308 people were killed and an estimated 289,310 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers.

Put the Phone Away or Pay

The campaign is supported by a $5 million national media buy in English and Spanish on television, radio, and digital platforms. Campaign ads will run from April 1 through April 8, targeting drivers between the ages of 18 and 34 years old who, according to NHTSA data, are more likely to die in a distracted driving related crash.

NHTSA’s rebranded campaign slogan “Put the Phone Away or Pay” aims to remind young drivers that distracted driving can not only cost you heavy fines, but could also lead to loss of life.

“Distraction comes in many forms, but it is also preventable,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman said in the press release. “Our rebranded campaign reminds everyone to Put the Phone Away or Pay, because distracted driving can cost you in fines – or even cost your life or the life of someone else on the road.”

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Distracted driving endangers not just the driver but also cyclists, pedestrians, and others outside vehicles, NHTSA officials noted. Despite a general decrease in traffic fatalities, the agency warns of a rise in deaths among vulnerable road users, with distracted driving playing a significant role in this upward trend.

Safe System Approach

In early 2024, the U.S. Department of Transportation published its Progress Update on the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS), highlighting the Department’s efforts to decrease injuries and deaths on roads in 2023.

Among the key achievements in 2023, the Department allocated $1.7 billion, through the Safe Streets and Roads for All grant program, to improve road safety across local, regional, and tribal areas, impacting over 1,000 communities and nearly 70% of the U.S. population. Additionally, the Department accelerated the introduction of new vehicle safety technologies, including regulations for automatic emergency braking to protect pedestrians in all new passenger and commercial vehicles.

The Department of Transportation indicates it made strides in fighting impaired driving by starting the process for setting standards on technology that prevents such behavior, targeting issues like alcohol-impaired driving. It also updated essential road safety rules, releasing a new version of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and offering updated guidelines for states.

The progress report further outlines new NRSS commitments for 2024 and beyond, specifically targeting distracted driving. These include updating prevention campaign materials to address the latest risks from handheld devices and using this refreshed content in prominent enforcement efforts.

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